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What to Expect Before, During, and After a Root Canal

What to Expect Before, During, and After a Root Canal

Perhaps you need a root canal. For most, hearing those words is panic-inducing. However, a root canal is nothing to fear. When decay and infection (and the accompanying tooth pain) set in, a root canal is usually the best way forward. 

Dr. Ryan Fait and our team at Southern California General & Cosmetic Dentistry, located in Long Beach and Avalon, California, know that even the most routine dental procedures, like a root canal, can be overwhelming. To put you at ease, we’re taking you through each phase of the process. 

Before your root canal

The good news is that root canals aren’t a major procedure, so there’s not much you need to do to prepare. We recommend taking all medications as prescribed (especially if we’ve given you antibiotics to control infection) and eating a healthy meal before your appointment since the local anesthesia makes it hard to eat for a few hours afterward. 

Also, stop smoking a few days before your appointment. Tobacco products interfere with your body’s ability to heal, so taking a break (or stopping altogether) is the best way to ensure a fast recovery. 

During your root canal

Depending on the severity of your infection, your root canal can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes — in some cases, you may need more than one appointment. Treatment on larger teeth with multiple roots often takes up to 90 minutes. 

Regardless, the process of a root canal is the same. Here’s a step-by-step look into the procedure.


Root canals are routine procedures, but they require some drilling and shaping, so we begin by administering local anesthesia to the treatment area to make sure you’re completely comfortable.

If the sound of our dental instruments sets you on edge, consider listening to music through headphones. 

Tooth protection

After we’ve ensured your comfort, we take precautions to protect your tooth by placing a small rubber dam over the treatment area. That isolates the tooth, keeps it dry during the procedure, and ensures the surrounding area is undamaged.

Drilling and removal

Now the real work begins. We carefully drill a small opening in your tooth to access the pulp. Then, using tiny dental instruments, we gently remove the nerves, blood vessels, and tissues inside your tooth. 

Cleaning, shaping, and filling

With the infected pulp removed, we can clean and reshape the pulp chamber and the roots. Then, we fill your tooth with a rubbery dental material called gutta-percha.

Final restoration

The final steps of a root canal involve sealing the hole we created with a dental filling and placing a temporary crown over your tooth. We do that to ensure bacteria don’t reenter your tooth while you wait for your permanent crown. 

Your permanent crown is custom-made to fit your mouth perfectly and blend in with the rest of your teeth. Usually, it takes 2-3 weeks for your permanent crown to be made. 

After your root canal

Will I be in pain after my root canal? That is the question we get most often, and for a good reason. Tooth pain, no matter where it comes from, can be debilitating. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about pain after your root canal. 

You may be sensitive for the first few days, but these symptoms are mild and easily managed with over-the-counter pain relievers, cold compresses, and other conservative remedies. 

If you suspect you need a root canal or if you’d like more information about your upcoming appointment, don’t hesitate to request an appointment online or over the phone at either our Long Beach or Avalon, California, offices. 

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